Energy

There's a disturbing, though funny to outsiders, trend sweeping green conscious corporations on the coasts of the United States - flurries of emails between indignant employees talking about how long their cars have been plugged in.

Though subsidies and public relations campaigns for electric cars are everywhere to be found, improvements in batteries have been absent for decades. Unless we want acid rain to come roaring back, there needs to be an improvement. Electric car companies are not going to spearhead the research, they are enjoying their 1950s-style "planned obsolescence" and have no reason to cause people to buy cars less often.


Tobacco is a high-density crop that is mowed several times throughout its cycle and that can be a good thing, because it can produce as much as 160 tons of fresh biomass per hectare.

Biomass that is suitable for producing bioethanol.  Smoking cigarettes is bad but renewable energy is good, tobacco just needs some help from science.


Growing agave and other carefully chosen plants amid photovoltaic panels could allow solar farms not only to collect sunlight for electricity but also to produce crops for biofuels, at least according to computer models.


James Lovelock, the Godfather of Global Warming, says we are doomed and the only recourse left is to retreat to climate-controlled cities. Others claim we can solve the problem if we just shut off all of the power plants. Others contend we simply need to stop building them.


Russia has control over energy supplies and distribution systems in Ukraine and that means they control energy supplies in Western Europe.

It's made a lot of Russians rich and prevents Europe from taking any meaningful stance on Russian aggression in Crimea. Solar power subsidies are not going to be much help if Russia shuts off the power.

Spit-powered, micro-sized microbial fuel cells produce enough energy to run on-chip applications, according to a paper in
Asia Materials.

Microbial fuel cells create energy when bacteria break down organic material producing a charge that is transferred to the anode. Bruce Logan, Professor Environmental Engineering at Penn State, has studied microbial fuel cells for more than ten years and usually looks to wastewater as a source for both the organic material and the bacteria to create either electricity or hydrogen, but says these tiny machines are a bit different.


Oregon State University chemists have discovered how to use the sun as more than just a way to harvest passive energy - they can use it to directly produce the solar energy materials that make energy harvesting possible.

This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun almost a "one-stop shop" that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them.


Countries are looking for fossil fuel alternatives that can get somewhere near the density of gasoline but with less impact on the global ecosystem. Among the most promising contenders for mainstream alternative energy production, especially on alternative science media sites like Science 2.0, is hydrogen – but that increasingly appears to be an unlikely candidate.

Low energy conversion efficiency weakens the case for hydrogen as a commercial fuel. Hydrogen requires one-too-many conversions to be as efficient as electricity (water to hydrogen to electricity), as opposed to a simple fuel to electricity conversion.
As long as mandates and subsidies continue, wind turbines will continue to be part of the alternative energy mix. 

That means going beyond hype and potential and focusing on physical design, such as spacing and orienting individual turbines to maximize their efficiency and minimize any "wake effects," where the swooping blades of one reduces the energy in the wind available for the following turbine.